CHILDREN, MEDIA AND THE RELATIONAL PLANET:some reflections from the European context - 6 - Papers & Essays



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CHILDREN, MEDIA AND THE RELATIONAL PLANET:some reflections from the European context - 6

This speech was presented at "Cultural Ecology" seminar supported by the Hoso Bunka Foundation, which was established by NHK, the public broadcasting firm in Japan, November 6, 1998, Tokyo, Japan.

6. Challenges

May children become actors in this future building up of new relational-networks in our planet? Or should they remain passively plugged to changes leaded by other's interests? I think they are already demonstrating they can become competent social actors.

Children have the chance to reinvent communications, culture and community. To address the problems of the new world in new ways (Sefton-Green, 1998, quoting Katz, 1996).

In a large part of our European society there is a growing concern and awareness that our children, the child population as a whole, requires more attention from us in the immediate future at all social levels.

We can perceive a great challenge ahead: We require new methods with which to train children to become capable of facing and taking responsible decisions about new issues and in new situations (Council of Europe, 1996).

Present process of change already requires debate about new rights and new responsibilities. The Convention establishes a series of civil rights for children (above all articles 12 to 16). Taken as a whole, the recognition of such rights creates new forms of children's presence in society, new forms in which children assume social responsibilities, new ways for adults to be with children, and to listen to them as competent people and as subjects with rights.

The implementation of such rights is perhaps one of the most profound challenges which the Convention poses to European society and probably to all industrialized countries. Those who have direct responsibility for children, or for childhood policies, understand its importance whilst also appreciating the great doubts and uncertainties which it creates. These are, above all, due to the lack of an "historical tradition" of giving a major social role to our child population.

We now have powerful new tools to try to address such challenges. Media and communicational technologies have opened new facilities. But the best opportunity is reflected by children's motivation and enthusiasm in using them and by their developing new skills and competence by using them.

New communicational technologies are giving us innovative ideas about how to improve children's social participation in European society. It is important children are more listened to, and are taken into account in all spaces of our social life. But most important is that children may have new opportunities of exercising real responsibilities in real practical situations.

We may try to develop new participative experiences with children to put into practice other desirable values trans-nationally and transculturally: co-operation, solidarity, democracy, and so on. And also to try to contribute together with children, to improve the quality of life of many other children in the world.

Through developing international comparative research, particularly focusing on children's perspectives, children's competence, children's well-being and quality of life, and children's relationships mediated by new technologies, we may contribute to basic and applied knowledge, which allows new co-operative transnational activities.

We must know much better how using new technologies may be maximized in the benefit of children, and of tomorrow's society. At the same time we must be conscious of the possible risks that must be prevented, and try to overcome new gaps between those who have access to communicational technologies and those that up to now do not have.

Most of the old well-known social utopia were reactions against something. At present, as we have R-tech (Relational technologies) available (Bressand & Distler, 1993), we have the historical opportunity of developing utopias without enemy (Breton, 1992), because some new technologies can be useful to develop new social aspirations, and help us to make them feasible. But we must keep clear that such technologies are not the goals. Aims and goals must be defined. And appropriated tools for each goal must be chosen. In fact, the cyberspace is no more the important space: what is important is the broader relational hyper-space (Bressand & Distler, 1993) we may create sharing our cultural aspirations.